INFO 202-18
Information Retrieval System Design
Fall 2021 Syllabus

Dr. Souvick Ghosh
Other contact information: Virtual/Online
Office Hours: Virtually (by appointment) via telephone or online

Syllabus Sections
Workload Expectations
iSchool Resources
Canvas Login and Tutorials
INFO 202 Resources
WebData Pro Tutorials

LibGuide for INFO 202

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 19th at 6 am PT.. You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically. Students must log on to the Canvas site by the second day of the semester and begin coursework.

Course Seminars via Zoom: As previously announced in the Class Schedules, students are encouraged to participate in the orientation seminar on Wednesday, August 18, 6-7 pm PT. There is also a mid-semester seminar on Tuesday, October 26, 6-7 pm PT, with participation in this second seminar strongly encouraged but not mandatory; students will participate or watch the recording. Zoom log-on information will be on the course site.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This course is about the systems and knowledge structures that information professionals create and use to connect users with information. It covers the design, querying, and evaluation of information retrieval systems, from web hierarchies to controlled vocabularies.

Note: the iSchool requires that students earn a B in this course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation, and you must repeat the class the following semester. If, on the second attempt, you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified. Core classes: required grade details.

Course Requirements

Complete INFO 203 Online Learning: Tools and Strategies for Success. This is a mandatory 1 unit course that introduces students to the various e-learning tools used in the iSchool program, including Collaborate.  For more information, see: INFO 203 Online Learning.

Technology Requirements

INFO 202 students will use WebData Pro, a web-based database management and information retrieval system, to create databases, manage database structures and records, and create a web-based interface for searching the database. WebData Pro is compatible with current browsers for Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS. Before starting INFO 202, students must:

General Requirements

Students are expected to check the course site several times each week. Assignments must be submitted by 11:59 pm Pacific Time on the due date. Contact the instructor prior to the due date in the case of serious illness or emergency.


Assignment and Due-dates

(or enter due dates in Modules section below)

Learning Objectives  / Competencies

Graded Points

 Exercises (in support of the Projects)

1. Creating Structured Metadata

    a.  Attributes & Designing a Data Structure - due 08/25 & 08/29
    b.  Implementing a Data Structure (WebDataPro) - due 09/12
    c.  Creating Standards for Database Content (Rule Writing) - due 09/19

2. Vocabulary Design Basics - due 10/31

3. Conducting User Research (Card Sorting) - due 11/21

1, 2, 3, 4, 5,

6, 7, 8, 9 


  E, F, G, H



9 points


2 points

5 points


  1. Designing & Evaluating Databases: 4 parts due 10/03, 10/10, 10/17 & 10/24
  2. Designing Vocabulary for Target User Group - due 11/07
  3. Evaluating & Designing Websites - due 12/06



  E, F, G, H

27 points

10 points

15 points


  1. Introductions - posts due 8/20 & 8/22
  2. Organizing Things - due 9/05 & 9/26
  3. Evaluating Searches - due 10/10 & 10/31
  4. Using Websites - due 11/14 & 11/24


E, G, H

12 points


  1. Quiz 1 - due 10/17
  2. Quiz 2 - due 12/05


E, F, G, H

20 points



100 points

Assignment Notes

  • Exercises are preparation for the project work.
  • Project 1 involves small group work to design and create simple web-based databases and search interfaces. Collaboration includes 3 to 5 synchronous virtual meetings in which participation is required.
  • Projects 2 and 3 are done in small groups, with the option to work solo if circumstances require.
  • Quizzes serve as a review of material in the course readings and assignments; they are open-book, untimed over several days, and all questions may be viewed at once. Each quiz covers a portion of the course content.
  • Discussions: Discussions are framed around questions about course content to contemplate, respond to, and use to engage with class colleagues.

Course Modules

A detailed course calendar is available from the course site on the first day of the semester. 

(Activities & Due-dates in the Assignments section above)




Introduction to INFO 202

  • Science and practice
  • Information science and library science
  • Information retrieval

PART 1: Designing IR Systems


Introduction to IR systems

  • IR systems for search & navigation
  • Introduction to metadata
  • Metadata systems
  • Hierarchical organization


Designing for search

  • Databases
  • Data structures
  • Metadata
  • Representation of information
  • Descriptive & subject access


Design processes

  • Eliciting information needs
  • Stages in the design process
  • Standards
  • Introduction to user research

PART 2: Querying IR Systems


Information seeking

  • Research models for information seeking
  • User experience research for search design
  • Cognitive, affective, & physical dimensions


User research

  • Card sort & other techniques
  • Understanding user information-seeking



  • Boolean logic & proximity operators
  • Relationships between data structures & search options
  • Critical concepts for better search results
  • Bias in search algorithms
  • Practices & strategies of search experts


User-System Interaction in IR

  • Past and current research on user-system interaction
  • Expert intermediary systems
  • Evolving areas of interactive IR

PART 3: Evaluating IR Systems



  • Evaluating IR systems
  • Evaluating searches; precision & recall
  • Other criteria for evaluation


Designing for navigation

  • Web structures
  • Designing sitemaps
  • Hierarchies: when to be formally correct, when not to be
  • Usability heuristics


Emerging Trends in IR

  • Relevance measures in web search
  • Conversational Information Retrieval
  • Bias on Search and Recommender Systems

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 202 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Design two major kinds of information retrieval systems: metadata and web hierarchies.
  2. Understand the basic vocabulary and concepts of information retrieval (IR), and use them in class discussions and analyses of IR design projects; understand the concepts, principles, challenges, and work embodied in the assignments as representative of concepts, principles, challenges, and work described in course content.
  3. Identify standards and best practices for metadata, classification schema and hierarchies, and apply them in assignments.
  4. Identify an appropriate user group for an IR product, assess their information needs, conduct user research, and design an information retrieval system to meet those needs.
  5. Explain and apply basic design principles for usability, focused on the content and organization of information for retrieval.
  6. Use Boolean logic and other methods to query the databases created as class assignments with effective searches in both natural language and controlled vocabulary fields; navigate hierarchies efficiently.
  7. Evaluate a database information retrieval system, including its vocabularies, using standard measures such as recall and precision; evaluate interfaces for information retrieval using basic principles of interface design.
  8. Learn database management software in order to implement database design, information structures, and create search interface.
  9. Assess user information needs, curate a small collection, and develop a controlled vocabulary for search access to that collection for the target user group.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 202 supports the following core competencies:

  1. E Design, query, and evaluate information retrieval systems.
  2. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.
  3. G Demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information such as classification and controlled vocabulary systems, cataloging systems, metadata schemas or other systems for making information accessible to a particular clientele.
  4. H Demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.


Required Textbooks:

  • Tucker, V.M. (Ed.). (2021). Information retrieval system design: Principles & practice (6.1 ed.). AcademicPub/XanEdu. ordering instructionsarrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Baeza-Yates, R., & Ribeiro-Neto, B. (1999). Modern information retrieval. Addison Wesley. Available through Amazon: 020139829X. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Manning, C. D., Raghavan, P., & Schandütze, H. (2008). Introduction to information retrieval. Cambridge University Press. Available as free eBook through King Library. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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